GetEQUAL 13 case over for all but ChoiTrans Progressive Thursday, May 19th, 2011
Commentary: Trans Progressive
On Tuesday, May 10, 2011, the GetEQUAL 13 went to court for the Nov. 15, 2010 White House fence protest to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) for what we hoped was the last time. No media were in the courtroom, so what happened there was for the most part not reported on.
We went on the fence with boisterous yelling, and for 12 out of 13 of us, the courtroom story ended with stoic admissions that we were guilty. The plea deal was made for the benefit of those who had jobs or desire jobs where a federal misdemeanor conviction may mean they’re fired or not hired. In four months, if we protestors of the GetEQUAL 13 who pleaded guilty don’t have any arrests for probable cause, then we will have our convictions erased from our records.
We protested last November for a law to repeal DADT, and a mechanism for the repeal was passed into law in the lame duck session. For open service of lesbian, gay and bisexual servicemembers, the law repealing DADT requires that the President, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff sign off that the military services certify that they are ready for lesbian, gay and bisexual servicemembers’ open service.
As of this point in time, lesbian, gay and bisexual people still aren’t allowed to serve openly, and are still subject to discharge if these servicemembers come out or are outed as such to their chains of command. This is because the certification hasn’t occurred as yet, so the DADT rules are still in place.
Dan Choi decided not to plead guilty, and he obtained his own attorney. He had said he was going to do this months earlier, but he had not informed the other 12 of us or our attorneys that he had taken any action to do that. And no doubt, more importantly, Dan’s new attorney filed no paperwork with the court indicating he was going to be the attorney of record for him prior to the May 10 court date.
Approximately two hours were taken up by: 1) Using the court’s time to introduce an associate attorney from Dan’s new attorney’s office; 2) Moving to have Dan have his own attorney and the amending of court paperwork to remove Dan Choi’s name from the plea deal; 3) Have the new attorney’s office and the District Attorney set a new court date just for him; and 4) Have the District Attorney amend the paperwork for our court hearing to remove Dan’s name from the plea deal.
It cost about $5,000 to fly the GetEQUAL 13 to D.C. for each court date, and since 12 of the 13 of us were ready to plead guilty and effectively end the case, and because the plea deal was “wired” – which is to say that the deal was put for all of us or none of us – Dan acted in his own interests, apparently discounting the interests of the other 12 of us, and the financial costs to others in the group of 13.
Basically, Dan could have derailed the plea deal hammered out by the others in the group. It didn’t because the District Attorney allowed the unwiring of Dan Choi’s case from the rest of our cases, and that wasn’t a sure thing when we stepped into that D.C. courtroom.
Whether it be from selfishness or from ego, or whether it be from a place of cluelessness or disregard of how one’s own actions impact the lives of others, Dan Choi took action with regard to our court case that were in his interests and didn’t acknowledge or respect the interests of others that took to the White House fence with him.
I don’t know what to take from that experience of how the case ended. Well, other than sometimes when I believe something is about community, sometimes it’s about a group of individuals who aren’t necessarily all on the same page. Sometimes it’s about the wants and needs of one instead of the wants and needs of the community.
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